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Our outlook onto life, the universe, and everything is based on our view of mankind. Is mankind inherently good, or bad? It's the ultimate question of human nature. Your decision on this simple (or not so simple) question will determine how you look at a person passing by on the street, your views on governmental figures, and how society should be structured. It was this question, and all its corollaries, that the thinkers of the enlightenment, specifically John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, attempted to answer. Their views are still being debated today, and their thoughts are still viable in today's world. However, Locke and Hobbes differed distinctly over what constituted human nature, and the nature of society.

A Calvinist, Hobbes especially embraced the idea of a low view of human nature; he felt that man was naturally evil and needed to be controlled. In his 1651 book Leviathan, he laid out his ideas of the Divine-Human covenant, and stated that man was only out for himself, and was an egotistical, pleasure-seeking being. Society would save man from his corruption, and a by entering into a "social contract," people would escape this. This social contract would include being ruled by a king, and would dictate how they lived their life. In signing away their rights to the social contract, they did indeed get something return -- life without corruption of themselves or the corruption of others.

Locke, on the other hand, felt that society was corrupt and that is what ruined man, not that society helped man. The views of the founders of the United States come mostly from Locke, not Hobbes -- Hobbes was a monarchist, Locke was decidedly not. Locke had been against the Stuarts, and sided with parliament; actions that would befriended himself with the founders had they been alive at the same time. Influenced by people such as Bacon, Newton, and Descartes, he believed that people were like a blank slate when born, that people could become anything, given the right tools and education. Like his inspirations, he felt that contact with the real world was necessary to gain knowledge.

For Hobbes' Leviathan, Locke had a competing book, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, and also Two Treatises on Government. He disagreed with Hobbes over the concept of a social contract; saying that a social contract was supposed to let the people who are in charge, the government, preserve the natural rights. Society was corrupt and needed to be controlled, not man; there should be religious tolerance, freedom of press and speech, and the such.

We can see off the bat the Locke and Hobbes have very different ways of looking at the problems of the world, starting from the utter cause of those problems. Locke said that morals constrain humans; Hobbes say that societal morals are the only way that we can save humans. It is comparable to the political debates of current times, but on a different scale. Everyone realizes that there is a problem; we simply have different views on where the problem came from and how to fix it. These debates even still can be drawn from Locke and Hobbes; the more conservative and religious types would agree with Hobbes that man needs society to reign him in, and that that society must have a social contract -- these days consisting of laws preventing things such as abortions and allowing things such as school vouchers to allow people to get a religious education -- giving up certain civil rights. Liberals are more likely to agree with Locke, saying that all people have a clean slate, as basis for the idea that we should stop all discrimination anywhere we find it, and that people can't shove their particular moral system on others, and that the natural rights are the most important thing to uphold in any social contract. The ghosts of Hobbes and Locke are well alive today in our government, and that is a good thing because who can really say what the nature of humans are? Differing religions give differing views on the subject, and as we can't have an official religion, we must find a happy medium. And isn't that what Hobbes and Locke were trying to do all along?

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